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Pure Will Power

Quarterback Will Howard has the confidence to lead Kansas State football to new heights

The locker room was chock-full of thick, celebratory cigar smoke. Confetti & empty Dr. Pepper bottles were strewn across the carpet, as loud music was barely heard over cheers and hollers. The Indianapolis Colts were getting impatient, needing the space for a game the next day against the Dallas Cowboys, but the current revelers didn’t seem to notice their concerns. The Kansas State Wildcats had just defeated the previously unbeaten Texas Christian Horned Frogs in overtime to win the Big 12 Championship, and time was standing still. Each person was sporting a smile above their royal purple championship t-shirt, and nobody’s grin was bigger than that of quarterback Will Howard.

Born on September 24, 2001 in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Will grew up an entire world away from the Flint Hills of Kansas. The son of Bob and Maureen, and the eldest of four children, he had a happy, modest, and rather unique childhood. As an infant, he couldn’t sleep very well, so Maureen, a pediatric physical therapist, used her professional knowledge and instincts as a mother and invented a cutting-edge “sleepsuit”. It helps transition babies from a swaddle, and provides a cozy and secure sleep environment. It worked so well for Will, she started making the suit for her other children and friends, and then, with the encouragement of Bob, they would co-found Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit in 2008.

A natural athlete, Will’s first love wasn’t football – but basketball. At Downingtown West High School, he excelled at both. In basketball, he was on the all-area team and member of the 1,000-point career club. In football, he led his team to the state semi-finals his senior season and was named the Maxwell Football Club Pennsylvania Player of the Year.

His journey to Northeast Kansas from the greater Philadelphia metro came rather fortuitous. Being proactive about his recruitment, he would send direct messages to coaches on Twitter, eventually sending one to Kansas State’s Conor Riley. Coach Riley didn’t initially respond, so a few months later Will sent him another message, telling him about a throwing event he was doing at his high school. Coach Riley quickly returned his message, mentioned he liked what he saw on film, and wanted to chat on the phone. Later that day, Will talked with both Coaches Riley, and Collin Klein. They then wanted to get his tape in front of Coach Klieman. One thing led to another, and the following day, Coach Klieman called and offered him a spot. An official visit was scheduled for that spring, and Will, alongside his dad and brother Ryan, made their way to the Sunflower State for the very first time.

Kansas State had everything Will wanted – a pure college town, great campus, fantastic college programs, and a noticeably positive vibe of the local people. The only thing holding him back was the distance from home, an 18-hour drive. However, with the encouragement of his family, he took a leap of faith, and became a Kansas State Wildcat.

Arriving in The Little Apple on January 16, 2020, the future was bright for Will Howard. Having early enrolled, he was looking forward to his first semester of college. Due to the pandemic, he ended up with half of a semester, no spring game, and didn’t return to Manhattan until the summer. “It was a weird time, but it honestly kind of timed out well for me, personally,” he says. “I was homesick that first year, and as much as it didn’t help me on the field to not be there, or to not get the spring ball reps, it was the most time I had spent with my family in years. After that, I was ready to get back.”

Going into his freshmen season, his goal was to make the travel squad, and work his way up the depth chart to backup Skylar Thompson. He would quickly make his first game appearance in the season opener against Arkansas State. When Thompson went down with a season-ending injury against Texas Tech a few games later, suddenly, Will was QB1, and starting the next seven games. “I don’t want to say I wasn’t ready for it, but it was definitely a little premature,” he says. “I felt like I was ready in the moment, but now looking back at it, how in the earth did I manage that? It’s a complex system, and I was more worried about what we were doing offensively. Now that I know it like the back of my hand, I can look at the defense more, and dissect what they’re doing. We pushed through, it was tough, but I learned a lot from that year. It taught me more than I could ever ask for. Those on the field experiences were invaluable, and it’s really the only way to learn.”

A lot of work behind the scenes, soul searching, and persistence has led to much better days at Kansas State for Will Howard from the first two seasons into his third. Will had every reason to transfer, but he stayed, stuck it out, and things have been seemingly going his way ever since. "It's not about proving anyone wrong; it's about proving myself right,” he says. “I was confident in myself and throwing the ball to where it needs to go. I was just glad to finally go out there and get an opportunity to show it. I’m super thankful that the coaches, through all those bad times, kept their trust in me. I’m thankful I was able to prove myself right and prove my teammates right as well.” That confidence showed on the field this season in not just Will, but everyone around him. It culminated with the Big 12 championship, and a trip to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl against storied Alabama.

Another blessing this season was his first Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) deal, introduced by former Wildcat, Curry Sexton & Wildcat NIL, and executed by Pat Waters & Leslie Gudel at Strategic Sports Marketing, Will’s exclusive NIL agency. The right fit was found with the Joe Wilson Agency at Farm Bureau Financial Services. “Joe’s my guy,” says Will. “He’s a great dude and a family guy that is willing to help me out in any way he can. He is someone that I would certainly trust to take care of my insurance. I like to work with good people, and he embodies that so well. I always talk to my parents about how they became so successful in the business world, and I like to plug myself in with good business people like Joe.”

When asked his expectations for next season, Will responded with the same grin seen in the locker room in Arlington, and the same confidence exhibited on the gridiron. “Our first goal is to run it back and win the Big 12 championship again,” he says. “Then, hopefully, we’ll be one of the top four teams that make it into the playoff. I feel like that’s where our standards should be at now. I don't think it's ridiculous to say being one of the top four teams is out of reach because I think it's very much in reach and, and very possible for us.”

With Will Howard at quarterback, the sky is the limit. Be sure to keep the confetti, cigars and bottles of Dr. Pepper ready for next season!

For inquiries on Will Howard, email pat.waters@ strategicsports.com. To learn more about Wildcat NIL, visit catsnil.com. Find Joe Wilson Insurance Agency, Farm Bureau Financial Services at joewilson.fbfsagents.com.  

"It's not about proving anyone wrong; it's about proving myself right" - Will Howard 

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